After watching the Bears offensive line during the preseason, you would have never thought that they would have been good enough to help the Bears reach the NFC Title Game. After all, this group had been basically “blown up” by the Raider’s pass rush in the preseason and no one felt that they would be able to provide any pass protection for quarterback Jay Cutler in the regular season (and against their opponents starters).
The first three games of the season saw the offensive line perform about as poor as an offensive line can perform. Cutler didn’t have much time to throw the ball and he was getting sacked at an alarming rate. Then came the offensive line’s worst game of the year against the New York Giants. Bear’s quarterbacks were sacked a total of ten times (Cutler was the recipient of nine of those sacks in addition to being knocked out with a concussion) leaving many to wonder if the Bears were going to go anywhere after that.
Once Chicago started to run the ball more the offensive line started to play better. Granted, in the second half of the season they still had their breakdowns but overall they did a much better job than they did during the first half of the season.
But there is still a lot of work to do on the line and hopefully the Bears will be able to take care of some of the needs that they have on the offensive line.
The following is a look at each member of the Bears offensive line on the roster in 2010. This includes a look back at their performance in 2010, how things might go for them this offseason and where they stand heading into the 2011 season.
OG: Roberto Garza
The now aged veteran helped the Bears out a lot in 2010 despite the fact that he missed two games with a knee injury. Garza did start to show his age however and is not as effective as he once was and so the Bears may start looking for a replacement for him. Garza is still serviceable though but if Chicago wants to improve their offensive line they need to start looking at the guard position especially in this year’s draft.
OG: Herman Johnson
The Bears signed this massive guard later on in the 2010 season and he didn’t see any action on the field but will get a chance to make the roster this summer. Johnson is a huge guy that still needs some refinement in order to see some regular time on the field but if he develops well he could become very productive for the Bears and could be a guy that could make both their run and pass blocking pretty solid.
C: Olin Kreutz
Kreutz didn’t miss a single game for the Bears in 2010 but did show his age. He wasn’t nearly as effective as he had been a couple years ago and made some mistakes at times (like holding penalties) that left many scratching their heads.
The Bears haven’t made any kind of move to replace him but may decide to start looking for his replacement in the draft this season. If they do decide to do this they will still need to keep Kreutz around for at least one more season to help break in the new center and make sure that they have some stability at that position. Expect to have him around another season or two.
OG: Lance Louis
Louis saw some time as a starter last season starting four games early in the Bears 2010 campaign. Louis came out of training camp as the starter at that guard position and the coaching staff seemed to like him coming out of training camp. But after some struggles at the position the coaching staff decided to take offensive tackle Chris Williams (who was coming off an injury that he suffered in the Dallas game) and move him to the guard position.
After that, Louis’ time on the line closed out and he didn’t see much action after that. In order for him to become a part of the team next season he has to show a lot more improvement at the guard position and may have to battle it out with some guard prospects that the Bears are sure to bring in during the offseason. Don’t be surprise if he either barely makes the roster or doesn’t end up playing for the Bears again next season as they know that they have to do a lot to improve their offense and may realize that Louis isn’t a good fit.
OT: Frank Omiyale
The Bears went into the season thinking that Omiyale would be a fixture at the right tackle position while Williams, who was still learning, would be able to handle the duties and responsibilities of a starting left tackle. Williams ended up getting injured so the coaching staff had to shift Omiyale over to the left side putting J’Marcus Webb on the right.
While Omiyale wasn’t at all a star at the left tackle position he was effective at times and was at least serviceable. It doesn’t appear as if Williams is going to head back to being a left tackle (he is much better suited to play the guard position) so right now Omiyale is the starter. The management staff needs to look at getting a starter at the position during the offseason and could look for one early in the 2011 NFL Draft.
It’s such an important position and the Bears need to take care of it this offseason.
OT: Kevin Shaffer
Shaffer ended up playing in all 16 games for the Bears and he started two of those games this season. Shaffer started out as the right tackle when Omiyale made his switch over to the left side but after two games, he was replaced by Webb and didn’t see much action the rest of the way. Shaffer is a backup and really a backup only and isn’t a serviceable starter.
The Bears need to go ahead and look for some talent at the right tackle position all the way from the top (a starter) down into some depth at the position. If they are able to find some good talent there then Shaffer should be gone but if they don’t then he will probably remain a backup with the Bears in 2011.
OT: J’Marcus Webb
Despite the fact that Webb was a rookie in 2010 he was called upon to start at the right tackle position and ended up starting 12 games while playing in 14. He clearly showed his youth and inexperience during the season and while he was serviceable at times he wasn’t that effective and caused the offensive line some problems at critical points in games.
Chicago will do one of two things at the position this offseason. They could feel that Webb is the starter and allow him to continue to play there and search only for depth at the position or they could go out and find a new starter for the position and drop Webb back to being a backup. With the need for a left tackle, guard and center much greater than a right tackle the Bears may choose to keep Webb there and let him develop further.
OG: Chris Williams
After starting the season as their starting left tackle, Williams (after having been hurt in Dallas and thus missing a few games) ended up switching to guard and while he had his struggles there from time he was effective and should get better as time goes on. Overall, Williams played in and started in 13 games last season and (as stated) missed some time with a hamstring injury.
Chicago’s coaching staff hopes that Williams will be able to develop into a full time guard over the course of the offseason and into next season and will be effective in the long run. Granted, his career with the Bears has been a disappointment (being drafted in the first round as an offensive tackle that didn’t pan out hurts) but he can at least redeem himself a little bit if he can develop more at the guard and play well there.
OG: Ed Williams
Williams saw a little bit of action this past season but once Garza got back and healthy the team moved him back to being a backup. Overall, he played in five games with three starts in 2010 and while he struggled at times with the rest of the offensive line he started to show some stability before he was pulled after Garza and Williams took over at both guard spots.
Williams does have some talent and would be worth keeping as a backup in 2011 and his starting experience would be very valuable especially if Chicago decides to bring in some younger offensive linemen to add some depth. Look for him to stay with the team as a reserve in 2010 depending on what other talent the Bears decide to bring in.
Problems on their offensive line really cost the Bears last season. They directly led to the loss against the Giants and against the Seahawks and led to breakdowns in other games. Chicago has not spent that much time or effort trying to fix their offensive line over the past few seasons and need to spend a lot of time there during this offseason.
Granted, their hands are going to be tied due to the trouble expected problems with the CBA and the final eight rule but they need to do whatever they possibly can to gain some talent in all positions on the offensive line.
It’s time for them to get a replacement for Kreutz and they have to do that in this draft. It’s also time to look for the replacements needed for Omiyale and Garza and they need to do that in the draft or with whatever free agency opportunities that they have.
Being able to protect the passer and run the ball is the biggest key to winning in the NFL. How the Bears were able to win so many games with the way the offensive line is amazing but you can bet that if things remain the way that they are now (on the offensive line) they won’t win too many games in 2011.